Private sector best practices for the federal customer experience

Best practices of the private sector

Anyone who’s abandoned a slow-moving line at a U.S. post office knows the frustration of inefficient federal government operations. At the same moment over at UPS or FedEx, the service is likely popping with the characteristic efficiency of the private sector.

That discrepancy is present in both digital and brick-and-mortar environments and throughout these sectors. According to Forrester’s 2017 Federal Customer Experience Index, 80% of federal agencies are rated as having “mostly poor” or “very poor” customer experience. Meanwhile, only 22% of private sector companies score so low.

Congress is now demanding that federal agencies bring their digital customer experience (CX) up to par. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA), passed in December 2018, seeks to apply private sector standards to federal website design and digital document handling.

Tech-Enabled Customer Engagement

Modernized CX is essential for the federal government because the vast majority of U.S. residents are federal customers. They are small business owners applying for loans, people seeking support after a natural disaster, veterans looking for benefits, and taxpayers submitting annual filings. They are people seeking information about government programs, postal customers tracking packages, and travelers applying for passports.

The only way to effectively serve and communicate with an entire country full of customers is to look to the leaders of the CX field.

The private sector continues to innovate with a strong focus on user experience (UX), design and security. Customers expect their digital interactions with private sector companies to be smooth, safe, device-agnostic and potentially even enjoyable.

Brightspot is a member of the AWS Public Sector Partner Network.

What are the best practices that the private sector uses to make this happen?

1. Create a customer-focused culture. Successful companies prioritize their customers’ needs. They train their staff in customer engagement, dedicate leadership bandwidth to customer care and arm customer support personnel with data and the power to resolve issues.

2. Enable smooth, cross-channel customer interactions. Well-run companies use a central customer relationship management (CRM) database to track customer interactions, provide common access to information and enable ongoing customer engagement across channels.

3. Use data and analytics to improve CX. Companies leverage data to gain insights about customers and learn how to promote satisfaction and loyalty. According to the Harvard Business Review, 58% of companies are using analytics successfully to increase customer retention.

4. Promote customer self-service capabilities. Many companies are using virtual assistants to help customers get what they need. According to Gartner, 25% of private sector customer service providers will use virtual assistants to help customers by 2020.

Federal agencies can look to corporate practices like the four outlined above to learn how to efficiently serve customers while making the best use of their resources.

IDEA Requirements

The 21st Century IDEA and its specifics may be new, but the requirement for agencies to update digital infrastructure has been in place since 2001, when the George W. Bush administration initiated the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) to make government services more efficient, organized and customer-focused.

Cross-agency initiatives such as the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) framework and the E-Government Act of 2002 began transforming federal digital infrastructure. Efforts at electronic modernization have continued in fits and starts since then, with the 21st Century IDEA representing the most recent and assertive attempt.

This act helps push the “deep-seated transformation” that the current administration’s PMA seeks to enact. The transformation in question focuses on modernizing federal function in IT; data, accountability and transparency; and workforce management.

Specifically, the 21st Century IDEA requires new executive agency websites and digital services to be user-friendly, accessible to individuals with disabilities, standardized in appearance, searchable, secure and mobile-friendly, among other requirements. Executive agency leaders must prioritize and budget for modernization of existing websites and digital services.

The new measures also include requirements to put paper-based forms online and make them mobile-friendly, as well as to adopt electronic-signature technology to facilitate customers’ ability to do business with the federal government.

Brightspot for Government

Federal agencies may need help from third-party experts to bring their online operations up to these 21st-century standards.

Brightspot for Government is built on our CMS, our take on the modern CMS. It provides a solution for Government agencies that is purpose-built to be fully compliant with all relevant Federal website laws, regulations and standards. Brightspot brings an extensive private sector track record of creating exceptional customer experience for some of the world’s largest organizations. We’re leveraging this success to serve modernization efforts in the public sector.

It provides a solution for Government agencies that is purpose-built to be fully compliant with all relevant Federal website laws, regulations and standards.

To learn more about what we can do for your public sector organization, visit us at